Len, The Zipper Club, & The Long Odds featured in Louisville KY’s The Courier Journal!

As the thin veil of panic and distress began to lift around my life when The Zipper Club campaign ended in success, I got an interesting phone call. In my final weeks worth of marathon panic to find funding, I took to posting a series of fliers around town to help get the word out in whatever manner I could. It didn’t appear that the fliers had done much to drum up business, but we made it through the campaign successfully anyhow. About a week after the campaign’s end I got an interesting voice mail from a young lady working for Louisville’s local paper, The Courier Journal. She introduced herself as Kirsten Clark, and said she had just gotten the job with the CJ and saw my flyer in a local book store, pitched the idea of covering it to her editor and wondered if I would be cool with talking to her about the project for the paper.

Of course, I promptly said “no thank you” to her offer of free advertising, because being broke and “keeping it real” are half the point of being an artist, no matter what your medium.  Unfortunately my friendly decline didn’t wash with the plucky young reporter, as she managed to track me down on 5 separate occasions and coerce information from me to get her precious story which is printed in today’s issue of the CJ as well as available to read online.

In the span of our conversations, she asked me about everything from my childhood to my career as a writer to my continuing life living with my heart defect and I got to know a little about her and how she came to be working for the paper in Louisville. When she mentioned some of her rejected story pitches including one about midwifery being legalized in Indiana after being outlawed for decades for whatever strange reason they might have had, I knew she was just weird enough that we’d get along just fine.

In all seriousness, it was an honor to talk with Kirsten on every occasion and she took every bit of information that I bombarded her with in professional stride. She’s new in her field, but I think she’ll go far and from what I understand, this is her first big pitched project for the paper to see print. I couldn’t be happier with the justice she’s done with telling my story and the story of what Brenda and I are doing with The Zipper Club as well as what I hope to accomplish within this blog in the span of 800 meager words and I humbly beseech her bosses to give her whatever she wants in the future.

Read the article here and feel free to post all sorts of positive comments on their site so we can help Kirsten impress her bosses as much as possible.

A Badly Drawn Boy Presents: The Sunday Sketch Dump (Vol. 1)

Something I figured I’d do since I’m pretty much making it up as I go along with this blog was the idea that, since I’m technically a professional artist ever since The Zipper Club crowd funded and actually made money off of me offering to do sketches, I’d end up posting some of the ones I did on commission, but for one reason or another, couldn’t throw up on the site for because they didn’t have any sort of place or context to be used here on the blog. Instead of letting these sketches only be enjoyed or ridiculed by the people who paid for them, I figured I’d do a round-up at the end of the week to show off the kind of goofy stuff I kicked out that was unrelated to The Long Odds.

This week, I have three.

First up…

Let it be said that as jaded as I’ve become and as little as I read mainstream superhero books anymore, I’m always going to have a soft spot for Batman. The campy, Adam West version of Batman to be precise. I love that a character that’s been tied to such bleak outlooks and darkness can also be such a bastion of insane fun and wackiness. When Brett Schenker, curator of the online comic site, Graphic Policy asked for his Zipper Club donor perk sketch to be of Batman and the Joker, the idea for what to draw came to me almost immediately. The idea of crossing over the zaniness of the former TV show with some of the bleakness of some of The Man Of Bat’s more modern story lines was too good to pass up.

They’ve currently resurrected the campy TV version of Batman in digital comic form, written by Jeff Parker and illustrated by Jonathan Case. Needless to say, this made my inner fanboy very happy and just putting it out there, if Mr. Case’s hand ever get’s tired, I’d like a little consideration if you guys need a fill-in artist. 😉

Second up, another TZC award perk, this one to comic pin-up and cover artist Joe Pekar, who asked me to do my interpretation of his cheesecake “Good girl” character, Brandi Bare. After reading a couple of Joe’s books, the idea came to me to have Brandi finally wising up to the pervy machinations of her stuffed teddy bear backpack, Bear, and his constant schemes to put his owner in compromising positions like stepping over a grate to have her skirt blown up Marilyn Monroe style. Getting asked to draw a character that I don’t own, by the actual person who does own it was pretty cool, and Joe seems pretty pleased with the job I did, (or at least was kind enough to humor me).

And finally, this one isn’t exactly a commission, but I’ll put it out there for anyone who might want to work something out in the off chance they want to purchase it. My obsession for the last five years with the AMC TV series Breaking Bad will be coming to an end starting next month when the final season begins to air, and I did this while watching an episode the other night. Can’t wait to see how things are going to end for Walt, Jesse, and the rest of the gang, although I’m sure it probably won’t end well for any of them.

Welcome to The Zipper Club

One project you’ll be hearing no shortage of updates on in the coming months is my upcoming all-ages graphic novella series, The Zipper Club with artist Brenda Liz López. The Zipper Club is half the reason I started The Long Odds blogging project after the success of our Zipper Club IndieGoGo campaign provoked an increased interest in my own, personal story with heart disease.

Not long after Love Buzz‘ debut, I was approached by Andrew Goletz, the founder of Grayhaven Comics, who liked what Michelle, Dave, Tom, and myself did so much that he asked if I had any ideas for the new all-ages anthology series they wanted to put together called The Gathering. After spending several days racking my brain for ideas and coming up with a couple of rather uninspired concepts about imaginary friends and mystical adventures that I wasn’t absolutely in love with, I started getting emails about the upcoming yearly gathering of Camp Bravehearts back in my old Kentucky home. After a little bit of wistful reminiscing, I realized that I had my next great story idea.

The story of The Zipper Club, inspired by my own journey growing up with heart disease, as well as my 12 years of experience as a counselor for a congenital heart defect summer camp called Camp Bravehearts inspired me to write a comic book about the kind of kids I’ve had the great fortune of getting to know in all that time.

At age 8, Cliffy Goldfarb was the recipient of an emergency heart
transplant. At age 9, Cliffy is now struggling to cope with the
limitations his still recovering body is undergoing, and the fact that
because of this, he has trouble relating to his peers. When his mom
suggests spending his summer at Camp Bravehearts, a place for kids
living with heart defects like his own, he has some trepidations about
going this camp for “special” kids, but soon learns his worries were
all over nothing when he meets a young girl named Rosie who introduces
him to a group of new friends who encourage him by showing off their
surgical scars to one another and inducting Cliffy into The Zipper
Club.

Over the next year, Brenda and I produced a series of six separate short stories, following the different themes given to us by each subsequent issue of The Gathering‘s editors (Despair, Heroes, Romance, a two part Ghost story in subsequent horror issues, and Myth) and managed to make each theme hit the right note to tell it’s own story while still building on the continuing saga of our kids and their first summer together at Camp Bravehearts. The goal being that when read all together, the shorts would come together to read as one complete story of five kids forming a unique bond over the course of one week at summer camp. The story within the first Zipper Club book is only the beginning, too. Should it become popular enough, Brenda and I have plans to do 4 more books on a yearly basis, telling the story of the five kids, one year later in their lives and development from the ages of 8 years old to 13 by the time we’re done. Our goal is to make each annual book into something akin to the same experience of coming back to summer camp to see the smiling faces of your old friends again and see how their lives have developed. I’m currently wrist deep in scripting next years annual as Brenda finishes up art on the book for year one.

You can pre-order copies of The Zipper Club in The Long Odds’ store on bigcartel.com for just seven dollars. The book will hold 54 pages of content, including 40 pages of fully colored Zipper Club story, as well as several pages of fun back matter, such as games, puzzles, pin-up art, and so forth, all in a digest sized, prestige format package. I’m also working hard on a way to sell copies in bulk for interested retailers and more importantly, children’s hospitals and pediatric cardiac care clinics all over the nation. If anyone reading this is interested in a bulk buy, please shoot me a line through the Contact page  and we’ll see what can be worked out.

We hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY OF THE ZIPPER CLUB NOW!

DON’T FORGET TO LIKE THE ZIPPER CLUB ON FACEBOOK, TOO!

A Badly Drawn Boy

When I tell people I work in comics, the first question they ask if I’m an illustrator. In all the years since I have started, I concocted a stock answer to this question, which I have used hundreds of times ever since.

“I just write them. I can’t draw to save my life.”

This is a semi-untruth. If someone were to come and put a gun to my head and say “Draw me a sad clown eating a bowl of cereal with the milk of his own tears or I’ll pull the trigger”, I’d put a pencil to paper and draw the least anatomically correct, flat looking, and undetailed clown possible, but I’d at least try and make it funny looking enough to keep my gray matter off of the downwind wall.  I would think it would be enough to save my life because if a gunman had sense of humor enough to tell me to draw a clown eating cereal lubed with its own tears, their sense of humor was in my wheelhouse. Clearly, if I thought I absolutely couldn’t draw, I wouldn’t be centering this blog around some of the goofy crap my brain cooks up and scrawls out regularly. I may never be good enough or have the patience enough to figure out how to professionally draw a comic on my own, but maybe I’ll take that plunge some day. I’ve learned not to say “no” to almost any possibility, and in the last year, I’ve begun to take that notion to further and further extremes. My confidence in my artwork has never been huge, and even these days, it’s only slightly bigger than “never been huge”.

As a kid, drawing was something I really loved to do. My time spent in and out of hospitals made me an avid comic book reader, and I always envied the guys who got to draw them.  The iconic characters, the vivid settings, the outlandish storytelling, the crazy action that the special effects of even the best of the 1980’s flicks just weren’t able to touch. All of it! That crap was better than candy to me, and I wished I could do it as well as the guys who were paid what I thought were “the big bucks” for bringing these epic stories to life. I wanted to be one of them, really badly.

My wonderful mother was nice enough to encourage, or perhaps just humor me in this endeavor. She was there stocking me to the gills with art supplies, a few cartooning lessons, and an unwavering level of support which has run strong through every other “pie in the sky” dream I’ve had ever since. Slowly, I began to hone my skills as an artist in ways that only a boy with hands so rickety that they could screw up a straight line even with the assistance of a ruler could do. I went on for a couple of years drawing crude story books and comics until I found myself under the tutelage of a rather draconian at art teacher when I reached middle school. A typical day in class would sound something like this.

“What are you drawing, Ward?”

“A picture of my dog, Michelangelo playing laser tag!”

“Your form is all wrong!”

“B-but…”

“No! It must be done like this!”

Obviously, I’m dramatizing a bit, but you get the picture. When you’re young and you are told you’re doing it wrong pretty much every time, you can become easily discouraged. I put away my pencils and shoved that dream into a drawer next to my dream of being made an honorary Ninja Turtle and moved on to wanting to be a baseball player despite being too terrified to swing at a damn ball.

In the years that followed, I would make sporadic attempts at picking up the pencil again. In an ill-advised move, I very nearly considered drawing the entirety of my first published graphic novel , Love Buzz, all by myself. Thankfully, I realized what a horrendous idea that would’ve been and I went about seeking out artists who could do the job properly. That’s how I ended up finding Michelle and Dave for the task.

Simply put, I stopped caring. I embraced the fact that my art is nowhere near professional, but that my hands and my warped brain can sometimes communicate to come up with something so silly that people can’t help but laugh, no matter how bad it looks. I even got the wild urge to try and include a personally drawn sketch with our Zipper Club crowd funding campaign and it turned out to be one of the most popular items we sold. What’s more, it now technically makes me a “professional artist”. I chuckle to myself every time I hear the words leaving my mouth, but it’s true. I’m even thinking of including hand-drawn sketches in The Long Odds store as well as offering t-shirts of some of my more far-out drawings.

Sure, the anatomy is wonked all to hell, the coloring style is pretty strictly flat, and I still can’t draw a straight line if you had a gun to my head, but something about what I’m doing amuses people, and I’m done ignoring that. I’ve learned that if you embrace your weak points just like you would your strong ones, you’ll live a lot less stressful a life. It becomes one less thing that someone else can use as ammunition against you to make you feel small.

I had written myself off as an “artist” due to all of those experiences over the years. Fortunately, I discovered my knack for writing and telling stories as a teenager and began pursuing it with the same stubborn sense of tenacity that kept me from going crazy as a sick kid and angsty teenager. That became my creative outlet, while the art became something I had written off for a long time. Fortunately, I’m thankful for the half-joking idea I had that made me offer my own sketches through our Zipper Club IGG campaign, and even more thankful for the number of people who were awesome enough to plunk down money to actually buy some. I can’t promise the work you’ll buy will be Norman Rockwell, or even Rob Liefield, but I can promise it’ll at least elicit a light chuckle. If you’re going to do something badly, at very least, do it with style. You might have some fun in the process.